To begin with, we are told of the likely ‘cause’ of his condition, being the murder of a childhood friend, whose throat was cut ‘from ear to ear’ and then dragged at night to the ‘bank of [a] river.’ Thereafter, Vincent suffers from a morbid fear of being alone. In addition, he was also ‘afraid to go to the barn in the day time, and suffered when put to bed in the dark’. This childhood trauma sets in place a troubled relationship with the world, exacerbated by an already nervous and sickly temperament. Soon after, the agoraphobia begins. His first encounter comes at the top of a hill. One evening, he tells us, he experiences the incipient symptoms that will mark his adult life more generally.
In time, this rupture of his security increases to the world around him, to the extent that even ‘[u]gly architecture greatly intensifies the fear.’ Certain props afford him comfort. Darkness, snow, stormy days and any other means to veil the horror of the world from his eyes allow Vincent to find his way in the world, as he tells us rather glibly: ‘On such days I make it a point to be out and about the town.’